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Whatever it was

Whenever I mention of St Leonard’s (the painting in yesterday’s post was sold out of a charity shop there), I think of this guy: the St Leonard’s Dragon.

Someone published a pamphlet in England in 1614 describing a nine-foot-long four-legged serpent with lumps on its back that left a stinky slime trail and could spit poison in a 64-foot stream. It lived in the forest and killed two people and two dogs.

God knows what it was – no other accounts appear anywhere and it’s never mentioned again – but I love this woodcut from the pamphlet. The mild look on the faces of the two corpses, and did you notice the dog’s shadow is pasted on backwards? The Seventeenth C was a funny time for art.

When I reread the article, though, it said this was near Horsham. St Leonards is nowhere near Horsham.

Sure enough, St Leonard’s Forest is a totally different place. According the article, it always had a reputation as a bad spot for serpents, ending with the 1614 account. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, 770AD, says “Monstrous serpents were seen in the country of the Southern Angles that is called Sussex” and St Leonard was a dragon slayer.

It’s still a forest. Huh.

November 22, 2023 — 7:06 pm
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